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T.J. Maxx sued for using woman as upskirt bait

Posted by Ralph Ranalli June 12, 2007 07:47 AM

WATERTOWN, N.Y.

A woman who claims she was used as unknowing bait to catch a man taking photographs up women's skirts is suing retailer T.J. Maxx. Svetlana Van Buren said store personnel surreptitiously videotaped a man taking photos up her skirt while she was shopping for coffee at the company's store in Watertown on June 14, 2006.

It was only after the man committed the crime that store personnel told her the photos had been taken and that the act was caught on tape, said Van Buren, a psychologist who was working at a state-run facility for youths at the time and now lives in Omaha, Neb. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the Jefferson County Clerk's office.

Officials at TJX Companies, Inc., of Framingham, Mass., which operates the T.J. Maxx chain, were not immediately available for comment.

The lawsuit contends that the store and law enforcement officials knew the man "secretly stalked" female customers for the purpose of taking upskirt photos, but did nothing to prevent it from happening to Van Buren.

T.J. Maxx should have used either a private female detective, a policewoman or a female employee who consented to being photographed to set a trap for the man, the lawsuit said.

Van Buren claims the incident has caused her physical and psychological pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. She said she has experienced sleeplessness, anxiety, depression and feelings of stress and violation, prompting her to seek professional help.

She blames T.J. Maxx for, among other things, making her the victim of a crime without her consent and violating her privacy rights. She claims the store failed to provide her with a safe environment and failed to stop a crime from being committed against her when it could have.

Her suit does not specify an amount in damages being sought.

The lawsuit does not name Jeremiah Williams, a Watertown man who was arrested outside T.J. Maxx the same day Van Buren was photographed. Williams was sentenced in February to two to four years in state prison for second-degree unlawful surveillance. Police accused Williams of taking more than 700 upskirt photos of women in public places with plans to start an Internet business with the shots.

- Associated Press

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